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Using utility right of way for trails has a lot of potential, and with natural surface trail, the two facilities can coexist without conflict. A good thing about utilities, they are usually very direct between any two points, which works well for bikes.

To really take advantage of these corridors, the state needs to pass something analogous to railbanking (except that the utility need not close for a trail to be built). But such an ambitious plan is not being considered, I am told, because the sponsors do not want to pay the landowners.

What options are available for gaining access to these corridors without having to pay?

1. Change the laws to make utilities more likely to voluntarily grant access. Shielding utilities from liability and/or making the trail manager liable for utlity negligence if a trail user is injured, and making the trail manager liable for any damage caused by trail users, would go a long way in that direction--for utilities that want to have a trail.
Exempting all land with a trail from property taxes would help, though the state and localities would take a revenue cut.
Allowing utilities to treat donations of trail easements as a cost for purposes of rate setting would also help. (I don't follow this closely enough to know for sure whether such donations are costs but my hunch is that they are not.) Of course, making electricity users pay for trails may not go down very well with the people's advocate.

2. Change the law so that any new utility corridors will include public access. That does not do s much good now, but it may eventually help. An exaction of a public right of way when a new worridor is created usually will not be a taking, as it occurs during the subdivision process.

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